STARS (21-19-8) at PREDATORS (21-22-7)
TV: FS-SW, FS-TN
Last 10: Dallas 2-7-1; Nashville 3-4-3
Big story: Few teams in the NHL can claim a worse start to 2014 than Dallas, which has picked up three points in the standings in nine games since turning the calendar. As a result, the Stars have fallen behind the pack in the Western Conference wild card chase. They'll look to climb back into the hunt against the Predators, who are also on the verge of falling out of the race despite improved play over the past week.
Stars: On New Year's Eve, the Stars picked up an impressive 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings that gave them seven straight games with at least one point picked up in the standings. Since then, however, Dallas has hit the skids hard, winning once in nine games and falling significantly behind fellow wild card contenders the Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes.
The Stars have struggled both to win, and to score at all, netting more than two goals once in the past six games, but the dearth of goals isn't for lack of trying. In Dallas' most-recent game, the Stars lost to Minnesota in overtime despite outshooting the Wild 35-19 -- and 22-9 through the first two periods.
"We outworked them, outplayed them, didn't give them a lot," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said afterward. "A little bit of bad luck."
After visiting Nashville on Monday, the Stars will come back to Dallas for a five-game homestand.
Predators: Despite picking up points in three of their past five games, the Predators remain well out of the West's playoff positions and are a point behind Dallas in the standings despite having played two more games. If there is a reason for hope though, it may be that Nashville has begun scoring at a surprisingly high clip. The Preds have netted 11 goals in the past three games, well above their 2.40 goals-peg-game average, which is 25th in the NHL.
A bigger concern than the offense, however, might be the goaltending. Nashville has had uncertainty in net all season with starter Pekka Rinne out due to an E. coli infection in his hip, and the Predators may have gotten at least a temporary fix by acquiring goalie Devan Dubnyk from the Edmonton Oilers this week.
Dubnyk made his first start for Nashville on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche, but despite getting impressive offensive support the new acquisition struggled in a 5-4 loss.
"I think there's a little bit too much thinking going on, on my part, and not enough just going out and trusting and playing hockey," Dubnyk said afterward. "It's disappointing to see an effort like that out of this group and not be able to help them to two points."
Injury report: Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas (broken leg) remains on injured reserve. Predators defenseman Kevin Klein (illness) is questionable after missing Nashville's game against Colorado on Saturday, while Rinne (hip infection) is not expected to return until after the Olympic break.
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